For a people that have such a reputation for hospitality, the Twins sure didn’t show any last night.
Obviously, that was not the kind of outing you wanted to see for the first start of Carlos Martinez. I wasn’t able to watch the beginning of the game, relying on GameDay to keep me posted, but it seemed that there was a little bad luck mixed in with maybe being a little excited about returning to the mound. The first hit was actually off his glove, he had a throwing error on a pickoff, and wound up loading the bases in the first only to wriggle out of things.
However, Minnesota is too strong of a team to allow them too many opportunities and they bunched things together in the second. It’s true that Paul DeJong didn’t help matters–again, I didn’t see it but on the face of it, going home instead of getting the runner at first is a bold move that better pay off and, as the runner was safe, it didn’t–but the Twins also got to Martinez with some big hits, including the home run by Jorge Polanco that capped off the five run inning.
After that, it felt like it was going to be a real stretch to see the Cardinals come back. If the offense was really clicking, they could put up five runs, but so far we’ve only seen that once in four games. Last night, like the opener against the Pirates, was pretty much all or nothing. The Cardinals would put runners on, but not be able to do anything with them. (It felt like way too often, that base runner came with two outs.) Tyler O’Neill cracked his second home run of the season and Tommy Edman gets to be the Hero with a double and a home run that bounced out of Byron Buxton‘s glove, but there wasn’t any real sustained attack. Though it was nice to see Matt Carpenter get a couple of hits after a tough weekend and after cracking a ball off his knee at the end of Sunday’s game.
Also on the positive side, the bullpen was strong. Austin Gomber did the 1.2 innings thing again and kept them scoreless, just like everyone that followed him. I’ve been impressed with the early returns from Tyler Webb especially. I was afraid that he’d fall off from last year just as a rule and that the three batter minimum would be an issue for him. So far, though, he’s thrown two scoreless innings facing lefties and righties. We also got to see the season debut of Giovanny Gallegos and it didn’t look like he had missed a beat, even though he didn’t strike out either of the batters he faced.
Keeping the Twins corralled was always going to be a tough job, but a Martinez that is more on his game probably could have done it. Everyone has a off night and given he’d not had a start since 2018, it’s not surprising that he might have some adjustment issues. What’s more concerning, I think, is we are perhaps seeing some of the same offensive issues that we had last year. It’s pretty early to draw any conclusions and there’s no doubt Saturday was a good day (plus they’ve not been shut out, which is something), but the lack of a sustained attack, the return of a boom or bust result, isn’t great to see. It’s also disconcerting that the Cardinals had beat up on Homer Bailey for a number of years and he was a better pitch to O’Neill away from shutting out the Cards while he was in the game. Bailey’s adjusting and becoming a different pitcher, so that’s not entirely an indictment of the offense, but you hate to see a pitcher the team has had success against (or other teams have had success against) shut them down.
Yesterday also brought the news that Miles Mikolas is done for 2020 due to a tendon surgery. Of course, even if there wasn’t surgery involved, given the short nature of this season pretty much anything could have kept him out the rest of the year, even the rest and rehab option. I mean, going on the 10 day IL is 15% of the season and that’s from the beginning of the year. Now it’d have been 16%. The good news is that the UCL looks good and Tommy John surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary. With this happening now, Mikolas should be ready to go for Opening Day.
John Mozeliak said they’d look at external options, but I can’t imagine they’d look terribly hard. Daniel Ponce de Leon takes Mikolas’s start today and well might stay in the rotation. If not, there’s Gomber and soon Alex Reyes and Genesis Cabrera would be cleared for duty. That’s not even counting Jake Woodford, who will slide into the bullpen right now but has been a starter his whole career. If there’s one thing the Cardinals have, it’s starting pitchers. There wouldn’t seem a need for a castoff or someone on waivers, even if you wanted to wait the time to get them tested and then into the team bubble. Maybe you don’t rule out a trade, but I imagine it’s still early for those kind of thoughts.
Cards finish up their only trip to Minnesota tonight. Hopefully the bats will come around!